The first followers of Jesus were Jews—not only did they themselves identify as Jews, but they were largely recognized by most other Jewish sects as Jews. Of course, they had this peculiar belief in the bodily resurrection of their leader, Jesus, but even this wasn’t enough to kick them out of the Jewish community.
Many Jews were familiar with such apocalyptic claims of a coming Messiah (the book of Daniel, a late Jewish text circa 165 BCE, is an expertly woven tapestry of Jewish apocalyptic thinking), and Jesus himself seems to have believed that God was about to do something amazing and miraculous for God’s people.
But then Jesus died—but not just any death—his was the brutal, state sanctioned act of crucifixion that was intended to send a clear and compelling message to anyone who would dare to follow the way of Jesus, the way of peace, the way of loving thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus’ proclamation was to the poor, the outcast, the oppressed—the kind of people who are always among us, primarily because those of us who have power and control the economic realities of the world are happy to ignore someone else’s suffering, so long as the comfortable world we inhabit carries on.
But Jesus could not be killed.
I don’t know if Jesus was resurrected from the dead—I suppose there is no way to demonstrate its truth or falseness—that’s probably not the point, anyways.
What is clear, though, is that there was something about Jesus that could not be killed. His followers, almost immediately, asserted that he had come back from the dead; perhaps in a different place and time, the Jesus movement may have faded away into the desert of long, forgotten gods. But not this time—this time, there was too much work to do—too much injustice, too much hate, too much destruction to fight against.
In some ways, not a whole lot has changed. There is still too much injustice, too much hate, and too much destruction to fight against.
And yet, in the power of that resurrection moment, whatever it ultimately means, we are reminded that it is worth persisting—that it is worth continuing to proclaim the healing power of God’s love for all of humankind. That it is worth continuing to offer up the central, peculiar notion of resurrection—that there is a different way to be.
Jeremy Langill — Senior Associate for Children, Youth & Families and Adult Education — offers this fortieth and final meditation for Lent 2017. Happy Easter, Church!